Haaland progresses on removing 'squaw'
Nearly 7,000 public and tribal comments to date.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of the Interior today announced that it is moving toward its “final steps” on removing the word “squaw” from federal lands.
The department is using “sq___” to refer to the word, which is a derogatory term for a female Indigenous person. Some Native people are not offended by it, but like the controversial word “redskins,” it has a history rooted in racism, and in this case, sexism.
Federal officials and settlers often historically used the word to designate landmarks.
As Indigenous Wire has previously reported, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, a citizen of the Laguna Pueblo, has made it a part of her legacy to remove words that she feels are demeaning to Native Americans. Her goal, according to officials close to her, is to right the past, heighten attention and hopefully make progress for the future.
Interior said in its announcement that its 13-member Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force, established in February under Secretary’s Order 3404, reviewed “more than 660 geographic features featuring the name sq___.” The agency’s public comment period, aimed at reviewing recommended replacement names, received more than 6,600 comments from the public and 300 more comments were gained through tribal consultation, according to the agency.
The task force has since provided replacement name recommendations to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, which is expected to vote on the task force’s recommendations in September. After that, a final list will reportedly be published.
“I am grateful to the Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force for their work to ensure that racist names like sq___ no longer have a place on our federal lands,” Haaland said in a statement. “I look forward to the results of the U.S. Board on Geographic Names vote, and to implement changes as soon as is reasonable.”
Interior further said the agency has recommended an additional review by the Board on Geographic Names for seven of the 660 features.
“Those seven locations are considered unincorporated populated places,” according to the agency. “Noting that there are unique concerns with renaming these sites, the BGN will seek out additional review from the local communities and stakeholders before making a final determination.”
More from Interior follows:
The Task Force is currently considering the following seven places for additional review:
Sq___ Harbor, Alaska
Sq___ Hill, Calif.
Sq___ Valley, Calif.
Sq___ Gap, N.D.
Sq___ Mountain, Texas
Sq___ Place, Wyo.
Secretary's Order 3404 and the Task Force considered only the sq___ derogatory term in its scope. Secretary’s Order 3405 created a Federal Advisory Committee for the Department to formally receive advice from the public regarding additional derogatory terms, derogatory terms on federal land units, and the process for derogatory name reconciliation. Next steps on the status of that Committee will be announced in the coming weeks.
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